Chester waterman sings of the Bay
CHESTER — Harry Davidson, 88, of Chester, recently turned heads at the Queen Anne’s County Waterman’s Association gathering at VFW Post 7464 in Grasonville, when he sang several songs he has composed over the years about life on and around the Chesapeake Bay. The lyrics to the songs showed a close, personal relationship to the waters. Davidson’s songs are reminiscent of the folk songs Bob Dylan once sang, but Davidson sings better than Dylan, one audience member commented.
A native Kent Islander, Davidson grew up on a farm located at Love Point, the northern most portion of Kent Island. He is well acquainted with the Chester River and Kent Narrows where he previously led wildfowl hunting and fishing parties. He reminisced, almost romantically, about life as a waterman around Kent Island, wishing to see the Bay restored to the times of explorer John Smith. Davidson’s business card states, “Bring Back the Bay Like in the days of John Smith.”
Davidson still owns three boats, including a 30-foot workboat docked at the Waterman’s Pier at Kent Narrows. He still takes out fishing parties.
“The Chesapeake Bay is the greatest thing on earth! I want to see it restored to what it once was, and I believe it can be,” Davidson said.
He has a strong opinion about why the Bay declined and said that its decline is much more than blaming it on natural habitat destruction.
“The change came very quickly ,starting in the early 1950s and running through the early 1960s,” Davidson said. “Chemicals were sprayed on farms all around the Bay, which during heavy rains and as far back as Hurricane Hazel in 1954, those chemicals ran off into the Bay waters killing not only the fish, but the grasses that are so critical to the entire ecosystem of the Bay. I’d like to see the Waterman’s Association sue these chemical companies for destroying their livelihoods. To me it’s the same as the tobacco industry having to pay for the deaths of people who smoked cigarettes. The cigarette companies were held accountable for the unnecessary deaths of so many people. Why not hold the chemical companies responsible in the same way?”
Davidson added, “I’d like for someone to prove me wrong, but I don’t think anyone can. After the chemicals, that when fish started having pfiesteria disease. More people die from cancer here now than ever. To me, it all comes back to the chemicals being used on the farms.
“With the habitat of the waters poisoned and destroyed by the chemicals,” Davidson added. “the grasses gone, oysters gone, much of the wildlife gone, it has effected everything about the Bay. I see it as ‘poison in z— filters out.’ The oysters and menhaden, both which filter the waters from pollution, the waters of the Bay didn’t have a chance. But allow the oysters to come back and stop killing the menhaden fish for what I call the “omega craze” and the Bay can come back to what it was during the times of John Smith. That’s how powerful those two ingredients are to restoring the waters!” He recommends everyone read the book “The Most Important Fish in the Bay” by H. Bruce Franklin.
Still, Davidson has a passion for the Chesapeake Bay and what it once was. He declares his sentiments are shared by many other people.
Among Davidson’s songs, one is about the once popular and populous “Black Duck,” which he calls in his song “The King I Know” of all the ducks that once were so plentiful around the Bay. In fact, it was once published, “there were more Black Ducks on Kent Island than any place in North American,” Davidson recounted. “It wasn’t people that killed that duck from hunting too much, it was the destruction of their natural feeding grounds.”
Davidson’s CD, “Songs of the Working Waterman of the Chesapeake,” includes 17 songs about the life that once was on the Bay. They can be purchased for $10, while supplies last, in historic downtown Stevensville at My Little Studio and Island Arts, directly across from Peace of Cake Bakery.
Kent Island waterman Harry Davidson, left, sing waterman songs he had composed to the guitar accompaniment of Shea Springer of Easton before other local watermen spoke about their personal experiences harvesting seafood from the Chesapeake Bay at the VFW earlier this year. Davidson’s songs, titled “Long John” (for the late John Peet), and “Butterball” for the Butterball Thompson, were a tribute to the local lore and waterman’s culture.
Capt. Harry Davidson sings a song during Cpt. Eldridge Meredith’s birthday celebration called, “Oh Long John, the oyster culling man.”